There've been so many interesting days visiting with estates who employ wildly different approaches from one another. But, one day in particular has stood out above all others. My visits at San Giusto a Rentennano and Fontodi in Chianti Classico came back-to-back. While both estates are larger than life icons, their 100% Sangiovese bottlings couldn't be more different. Today, we look at two ends of the Chianti Classico spectrum, both offering unrivaled cellar potential from the spectacularly classic and powerful 2013 vintage.
San Giusto Rentennano has been a property in flux since inception. The grounds were initially home to a monastery for cistercian nuns in 900 AD. Then in 1204 it was used by the Florentines to hold off the advancing troops from Siena. The estate is surrounded by massive walls still complete with remnants from the war on nearly every stone. It's rare to see deep underground cellars in Tuscany, but here the dank and cavernous cellar was a shelter for the inhabitants throughout the years of turmoil. In 1910, the Martini di Cigala family took control of the property and today the third generation of Anna, Lucia, Elisabetta, Francesco, Alessandro and Luca are producing wine from 31 organically farmed hectares.
The property was perhaps my favorite in Tuscany to tour. Looking back on the afternoon is like a dreamscape, navigating through the twists and turns of the cellar, surprisingly descending further and further. Here library wines are stored at the depths under the most perfectly dark, humid, and romantic conditions found only in these timeless old world estates.
In recent years San Giusto has moved away from small barrique for aging, adding large formats such as tonneau and botti. The results have given these wines a really gorgeous sense of clarity and elegance. However, getting right down to it the wines here also show a brawn and muscle that's atypical for the region. These are extremely structured and powerful wines that are the most ideal matches for grilled meats, still working very well with the wide range of traditional Tuscan fare. The salumi and pecorino cheese platter at San Giusto begged to be devoured with these wines.
There's still a translucent and weightless quality to San Giusto that's perplexing. The tannin profile and notes of leather, mint, and dark cherry provide a fascinating juxtaposition. The most impressive element of the recent shift here in aging is the sense of energy and crystalline fruit carried despite all its strength.
Fontodi is the poster child of everything positive that's been achieved in Chianti Classico with modernization. In 1968 the Manetti family purchased this property and ushered the Panzano zone into the minds of collectors throughout the world, showing a "Super Tuscan" could still be super without resigning to blending international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with the native Sangiovese.
Walking throughout this immaculate, pristine cuverie and cellar I'm reminded of the influence that Bordeaux has had on the region. Aging for the flagship Falccianello takes place in 100% new French barrique. This is something that would nearly always be a turn off for me in Chianti, but the mastery of integrating this wood has earned Fontodi the respect of traditional-leaning collectors for decades.
The estate sits atop the "Conca d'Oro" (the Golden Shell pictured above). The vines here bask in the sun in this northern property where night temperatures dip at 450 meters above sea level. The oldest vines on the estate are sourced for Flaccianello, coming mainly from the porous and fragile gaelstro soil.
Flaccianello is always one of the more powerful wines of the region, but in 2013 its fresher qualities provide a welcomed balance. The elegance and silken frame of Flaccianello is what stands out most. Whereas much of Chianti Classico falls into the red fruit category, here we have much more blue and purple fruit notes with aromatics of lavender and clove.
It's not often that I find myself reaching for the more modern examples of Sangiovese, but without a doubt, Flaccianello is where to turn for Chianti at its most stately and refined. The track record of Flaccianello in the cellar is legendary. Today, bottles from the 80's are fresh, offering thrilling drinking experiences. 2013 is delicious and suave with just 30 minutes in the decanter, but make no mistake about it: this will be one for the record books.
2013 San Giusto Chianti Classico Riserva le Baròncole
$69 per bottle.
2013 Fontodi Flaccianello Toscana IGT
$115 per bottle.
Special 2-pack pricing (one bottle of each)
Regularly $184, today Down to $169!
1995 Fontodi Flaccianello Toscana IGT
$192 per bottle.